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Citizenship

Multinational Banks Join Boycott of Brunei-Owned Hotels Following Anti-LGBTQ Stoning Law

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Multinational banks, including Bank of America and Citigroup, are the latest to join the boycott of hotels owned by the Dorchester Collection group, which is operated by Brunei’s state-owned investment agency. The decision follows the latest decree of the country’s Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, to make homosexuality punishable by stoning to death.

In March, actors including George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, and Billie Jean King called for a boycott of nine international hotels owned by Brunei over the law.

Deutsche Bank was the first to remove Dorchester Collection hotel group from its list of suppliers, in early April. And firms such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Jefferies, Morgan Stanley, have since followed suit, according to Financial Times.

“The new laws introduced by Brunei breach the most basic human rights, and we believe it is our duty as a firm to take action against them,” Stuart Lewis, Chief Risk Officer and member of the Management Board, said in a statement.

“We are proud to support LGBTQI rights around the world, and as part of this we regularly review our business partnerships to ensure that they are aligned with this principle.”

The financial institutions have also banned their employees from staying in hotel properties owned by Brunei’s government, including Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air and London’s Dorchester and 45 Park Lane.

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Goldman Sachs and Bank of America confirmed their decision to no longer associate with the hotels to CNBC

“We have banned Brunei hotels from our booking system, but have not said anything publicly,” a senior manager at JP Morgan, who requested anonymity, told the Financial Times. “So we are quietly doing the right thing, which is good I suppose,” he said.

Even though homosexuality and same-sex marriage are still illegal in some Southeast Asian countries, using capital punishment for either in the region is a first. Brunei also applies the death penalty to offenses that include rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery, and insulting or defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

Many companies have become part of the global movement to cut ties with the hotels. Virgin Atlantic canceled a partnership deal with Brunei’s airline, Royal Brunei. The Transport for London network removed advertisements for Brunei, which called it  “the abode of peace,” from London's transportation system. And the United Kingdom’s ruling Conservative Party canceled a fundraiser at the Brunei-owned Dorchester Hotel. 

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Aberdeen University in Scotland and Kings College London are also retracting the honorary degrees awarded to the Sultan, whose estimated net worth is $20 billion.

And United Nations also condemned the laws, calling them “cruel and inhuman.”

“I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented,” the UN high Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement.

In 2014, Brunei, a Muslim majority country, attempted to implement similar laws but after backlash from rights groups, delayed the process. 

“These abusive provisions received widespread condemnation when plans were first discussed five years ago,” Bachelet added.

Even though Brunei is a small country with a population of 438,447, capital punishment legalizes homophobia and is a major step backward for human rights, according to nonprofit Amnesty International.

“LGBTI rights remain under attack internationally,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International recently told Global Citizen via email.

“Criminalisation of any kind of LGBTI people creates a climate that legitimizes discrimination, harassment, and violence against anyone perceived to be gay or lesbian..In the face of attempts to dehumanize and demonize LGBTI people, we must stand up to defend their rights, wherever we are,” she added.